Shane Lowry had his driver to thank after playing himself right into contention on a weather-suspended opening day at the Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio. Lowry led the field in strokes gained off the tee on Thursday, also needing just 25 putts, 11 of those being one-putts, in a very respectable three-under par 69 to trail just three shots behind clubhouse leader, Collin Morikawa.
Morikawa posted seven birdies in a six-under par 66 to head the field on the virtually completely redesigned Jack Nicklaus course. Thursday’s weather delay is the 45th occasion in the 46-year history of ‘Jack’s Event’ that play has been interrupted by poor weather.
Lowry was four-under and sharing fourth place with three holes to go when lightning halted play for a minute shy of two hours. The reigning Open Champion had grabbed four birdies in a continuation of his recent good form, in his first event back on the Tour since sharing fourth place in last month’s PGA Championship.
Though when play resumed following the delay, Lowry was handed a plugged lie in a green-side bunker in a penultimate hole bogey. The 34-year old was again in a sand trap guarding the final green but got up-and-down in sinking a five-and-a-half footer to save par before heading back to the clubhouse for a second time in his round with rain still falling to be sharing seventh place.
“I’m pretty happy with how I played,” said Lowry. “I drove the ball very well. Out here you need to be out in the fairway because the rough is so thick and so penal. I’m not sure I was in the rough once today. Couple of fairway bunkers maybe.
“I was pretty happy with how I did and just disappointed with my finish. I hit a perfect 9-iron into 17 but it came up short. Though I hit a good drive on the last and still struggled, I hit a bad second shot, missed the green. So, disappointed in finishing badly, but I’m pretty happy with my score.”
Lowry is teeing-up this week for a first time since his brilliant share of fourth place in last month’s PGA Championship, the Clara golfer’s best finish since capturing the 2019 Open Championship. Lowry grabbed a first birdie in holing a three footer at the par-5 fifth hole and then moved to two-under in sinking a nine-foot putt at the next, the par-4 sixth.
He parred the next five holes before landing his tee shot at the par-3 12th to some seven-feet behind the flagstick and holed the putt to move to three-under par. Lowry was all over the flag with his approach at the par-3 14th ahead of holing his four-footer for a fourth birdie of his round.
The siren then sounded at 12.46pm local Ohio time with players returning at 2.45pm. It was a good all-round display from Lowry hitting 12/14 fairways, 10 of 18 greens in regulation with 13 outward nine putts and a dozen over his closing nine while one-putting the 10th to 14th holes inclusive.
In vast contrast to Lowry, Padraig Harrington, who shared fourth alongside the Clara man last month at Kiawah Island, struggled on the Ohio course, returning a horror score of six-over 78 in what is a 15th occasion since his Memorial debut in 2003, that he’s failed to break 70.
Harrington teed-off from the 10th but it was a disastrous outward nine for the European Ryder Cup captain in slumping to seven-over par through nine holes. Harrington doubled the par-3 12th hole in finding water off the tee and also doubled the par-4 14th before finding water left off the tee at 18 and then taking four shots from just 56-feet shy of the flag for a ‘7’.
The present World No.145 finally grabbed a first birdie with a three-footer at the par-3 third hole, the 12th of his round, however, Harrington gave the shot back at the next. the 49-year old was at the side of his 14th green and sharing last place among the 68 players who teed-up in the morning when the siren sounded. He returned to hole a one-footer for birdie but then bogeyed his 17th before signing off by holing a 21-foot birdie bomb to be sitting outside the top-100 when play was suspended for the day.
Rory McIlroy was out in the evening half of the draw but managed to complete just two holes of his opening round. The world number eight missed the opening green and failed to get up and down for a first hole bogey before two good shots to the second led to a par ‘4’. McIlroy missed the fairway on the right of the third when the hooter called a halt to day one at the Memorial. Play should resume at 7.30am ET – (12.30pm Irish time).
- Full scoring HERE